The Eerie Auditory Thrills of Broadcast Horror

Get an earful of this subgenre.
Pontypool Canadian Horror

Welcome to The Queue — your daily distraction of curated video content sourced from across the web. Today, we’re watching a video essay on the sub-genre of “broadcast horror.”


What’s more terrifying, what you see or what you hear? What causes you to wince and instinctively cover your vital organs? Is it the bloody spectacle of splintering bones, popping eyes, and gaping maws? Or is their horrid audible representations? You can close your eyes, to be sure. But it is not so easy to escape sound.

Sound is a vital ingredient in selling the horror of horror films. It can make unbelievable (or hastily made) monsters feel that much more real and sell us on all manner of unthinkable, spine-tingling scenarios. It should come as no shock then, that there exists a sub-genre dedicated to mining the terrifying potential of audio.

In “broadcast horror,” the action is heard and described rather than seen, relayed to the protagonist, our surrogate ears, through radio waves, cell phone calls, and recorded transmissions. After readily coining and identifying the sub-genre, the video essay below unpacks three of its exemplary titles.:

Talk Radio, Oliver Stone’s 1988 thriller about a contemptuous shock jockey; Pontypool, an imaginative Canadian zombie film from 2008 that takes place entirely within a small-town radio station; and The Guilty, Gustav Möller’s 2018 film about a police officer assigned to oversee 911 dispatch, desperately attempting to remotely locate a kidnapped woman.

While few films have taken the premise of broadcast horror to its claustrophobic, logical extreme (Pontypool and The Guilty, excluded), as you acquaint yourself with the genre, you’ll no doubt connect the dots to movies with emphatic moments of broadcast horror. So, connect the dots, recall auditory nightmares from films past, and listen to this:

Watch “The Unique Thrills of Broadcast Horror”:

Who made this?

This video essay on the unique thrills of the broadcast horror sub-genre is by Dennis Gallagher. They’re a relatively new presence on the YouTube video essay scene. You can subscribe to Gallagher’s channel here.

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    Meg Shields: Meg Shields is the humble farm boy of your dreams and a senior contributor at Film School Rejects. She currently runs three columns at FSR: The Queue, How'd They Do That?, and Horrorscope. She is also a curator for One Perfect Shot and a freelance writer for hire. Meg can be found screaming about John Boorman's 'Excalibur' on Twitter here: @TheWorstNun. (She/Her).